This article concerns the evaluation of the social capital of the European teachers participating in the eTwinning Portal activities, run by European Schoolnet and characterised by more than 160,000 registered teachers from 35 countries, involved in more than 19,000 projects (2010). This evaluation has been performed by using the Social Network Analysis approach.
The authors found that some correlations can be found "between social network analysis measures like degree and betweenness centrality as well as the local clustering coefficient, activity statistics about usage of eTwinning and the quality management of European Schoolnet".
For the analysis of eTwinning network data, three Learning Analytics tools have been developed:
- eVa (eTwinning Network Visualization and Analysis), a network visualization and simple analysis tool.
- CAfe (Competence Analyst for eTwinning), an SNA-based competence management and teachers' self-monitoring tool.
- AHTC (Ad Hoc Transient Communities) services, which involve users into question-answer activities on the eTwinning Portal.
This paper talks about the introduction of a tool, named Network Awareness Tool, for the investigation of informal learning at workplace. The importance of tools like this is high, considering that "Informal learning is an important driver for professional development and workplace learning. However [...], there is a problem when it comes to making it a real asset within organizations: Informal learning activities are mostly invisible to others, sometimes the learners themselves might not even be aware of the learning that occurs. As a consequence informal learning in organizations goes undetected, remains off the radar of HR departments and is therefore hard to asses, manage and value".
In order to test the tool, a taget group has been selected, composed by teaching professionals working in school organizations. The tool is based on different theories:
- Networked Learning Theory: "Networked Learning Theory is an emerging perspective that tries to understand learning by asking the question how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for their own and reciprocal learning and professional development".
- Social Network Theory: "Social Network Theory asserts that the constitution of a network may influence the accessibility of information and resources and that the social structure may offer potential for the exchange of resources". The structure and the dimensions of a social network can be analysed by Social Network Analysis.
- Social Network Analysis: "According Social Network Analysis a network consists of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within a network and ties are the relationships between the actors. The impact of the structure of social networks can be studied on three levels: first the positions people have in a network (individual dimension), the relational level (ties dimension) and finally the overall network structure (network
- Social Capital Theory: this theory concerns "the relational resources embedded in social ties and how actors interact to gain access to these resources".
- Communities of Practice: "the collective advancement of knowledge and the development of shared identities comes together in the community aspect of social learning, which we base on the well known concept of communities of practice".
- Individual demographics: this is an important aspect to be taken into accounts, considering that "age and years of experience can also have an impact on teachers’ professional development. Senior employees tend to take less initiatives in their professional development".
Thanks to Learning Analytics functionalities, Network Awareness Tool can depict the "actors" involved in the social network and to track the quality and the nature of ties between actors. Also the contents of ties can be tracked using meta-tags. Using Social Network Analysis, Network Awareness Tool can design the social network structure and density, indicating to HR department what topic are particularly relevant for informal learning at workplace.
In this paper, the authors describe a conceptual model for the analysis of informal learning in online social networks for workers, and in particular for health professionals. This work sector has been selected due to its particular characteristics, considering that Staying up-to-date and delivering best evidence-based care is crucial for these professionals, and that they need to be lifelong learners as medical knowledge expands and changes rapidly.
In this environment, "Online social networking (OSN) provides a new way for health professionals to communicate, collaborate and share ideas with each other for informal learning on a massive scale. It has important implications for ongoing efforts to support Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in the health professions. However, the challenge of analysing the data generated in OSNs makes it difficult to understand whether and how they are useful for CPD".
The paper explores three approaches for the analysis of OSN: Content Analysis (CA), Social Network Analysis (SNA) and the most innovative one, the Social Learning Analytics (SLA), as a sub-field of Learning Analytics.
The described conceptual model tries to merge the CA and SNA approaches, considering also a survey to evaluate the learning outcome, instead of real clinical data. This model is divided in three sections:
- Learning interactions: is focused on studying the structure of interactions and the level of and influential factors associated with engagement.
- Learning process: involves the examination of cognitive presence, social presence, facilitation presence and learning presence.
- Learning outcome: measures the social value for online community members, in terms of valued activities, gained knowledge, changed practice, improved performance and redefined success.
This study examined the degree of teacher presence within the networks of high- and low-performing students. It found that teaching staff members were more than twice as likely to participate in the network of a high-performing student as they were in a low-performer network.
Teaching staff, through their participation and facilitation in the forums, had intended to promote a sense of community in the student cohort. Where a more factual orientation was asked of the students, staff often diminished their own presence to allow time for peer response and assistance, presuming that allowing space and time for peer-to-peer
engagements to evolve would benefit the entire student learning community. While staff attempted to respond to all discussion postings, high-performing students posted more conceptual questions and were thus perceived by staff to require some direction and assistance, given that the answers to these types of questions could not be directly located in the prescribed text. Thus, the teaching staff actively intervened to provide direction to new resources or to redirect discussion towards a solution, but the benefits flowed most often to the high performers.
: Dawson, Shane. (2009). 'Seeing' the learning community: an exploration of the development of a resource for monitoring online student networking. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(5), 736-752.